DEAR MISS MANNERS: My good friend is having her first grandchild. She asked me to make a quilt for the baby, which I did. Quilts are not cheap, so I asked if it could be my gift to the baby. She was thrilled and said yes.
My daughter, who is friends with the mom-to-be, is upset that I am not buying a gift from the registry. Am I messing up?
GENTLE READER: For handcrafting a gift that took you some time and will be remembered by the family when the animated tummy mat is celebrating its tenth anniversary in the landfill — instead of taking 15 seconds to check a box and push a button on a website? Miss Manners hopes not.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: One of my best friends decided, in her retirement, to write novels. She has already self-published one, which was dreadful, but fortunately I wasn’t asked to weigh in on it.
Now she has sent me a draft of her second novel, which she has been working on for more than two years. This time, she asked me for feedback.
It is perfectly awful — worse than her first book. I don’t know what to say. I really value her friendship.
GENTLE READER: There is a question Miss Manners will need to ask first, and one she also directs at anyone who was about to counsel that honesty is always the best policy:
Was the request for feedback an honest question?
If your friend is only seeking praise — and will likely argue with constructive criticism — that is not a reason to lie, but it is a reason to consider what would be gained from an honest answer that alienates her without improving her writing.
It is also, perhaps, a reason to cast about for a hiding place. If we rule out changing your name and fleeing the country, the next-best advice may be to protest that you are not a writer; or, if you are, you are not a novelist; or, if you are, you are not a romance novelist; or, if you are … well, at this point Miss Manners will rely on your own skills at fiction.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: During my home renovation, at one point I put my contractor on speakerphone with a vendor so that they could discuss a certain product’s technical specs. My contractor interrupted and was gruff with the vendor, whom I found to be courteous and helpful.
I didn’t feel right “scolding” my contractor — who was always polite to me — but I also didn’t feel good about how he spoke to the vendor. Is there anything I could have or should have done, either in the moment or afterwards?
GENTLE READER: As the employer, it is your good name on the line, so Miss Manners agrees that you have a duty to intervene when things go wrong. She also realizes that there may be relevant prior history of which the contractor is aware but you are not. She therefore advises starting with a question: “Is there a problem with this vendor? Is it something that you need my assistance on?”
Making a contractor aware that you are paying attention is often enough to save you the unpleasant necessity of explaining that you expect him and his employees to treat other workers with the same courtesy he has shown you.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.